A public-private partnership (PPP) has been established to pursue the establishment of a special economic zone (SEZ) aimed at attracting investments that seek to add value to South Africa’s platinum-group metals (PGM) resources ahead of export.
Known as the Platinum Valley Hub, the SEZ is one of ten new industrial hubs or corridors currently under investigation by the provinces while the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) advances the SEZ Bill through the Parliamentary approval processes - the SEZ Bill was introduced in Parliament on March 6.
In fact, it is one the three most advanced SEZ’s under review along with the Saldanha Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) and the OR Tambo jewellery precinct.
The geographical position of the Platinum Valley as an SEZ has not been confirmed, but it could possibly be located in the North West province, or be established as an industrial corridor between the Limpopo and the North West provinces.
The DTI is aiming to have the SEZ legislation, which expands the country’s industrial real-estate portfolio beyond the export-oriented IDZs that already exists, by year-end, with the parliamentary approval processes having already made progress.
Platinum Valley Development Initiative champion Mashudu Ramano reports that the private-sector-led concept is receiving high-level government and private sector backing.
Besides the DTI, the SEZ is being actively supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR).
Support is also reportedly being offered by the Chamber of Mines, individual mining companies, including Amplats and Lonmin, the Platinum Trust of South Africa, the Minerals Processing and Beneficiation Industries Association of Southern Africa and Ramano’s TerraCotta Resources, which first conceived the concept.
Ramano says the aim is to create an innovation hub or corridor that will attract domestic and international investment for beneficiation and value-addition.
Given platinum’s potential to emerge as a signficant energy mineral, the hub will seek to leverage South Africa and Africa’s need for energy that does not contribute to climate change.
It will also seek to capitalise on the fact that South Africa has the world’s largest PGM reserves and currently represents about 70% of global output.
The SEZ dovetails with the DST’s Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) research and development programme, which aims to create knowledge and human resource capacity around South Africa’s platinum industry, which is currently focused on mining activities.
In fact, DST’s Dr Phil Mjwara stresses that the main objective of HySA is the development of value-added manufacturing for the PGM catalysis value chain with the aim of securing a 25% global market share by 2020.
Under HySA, university and science council researchers are interrogating combined heat and power solutions, portable power systems, hydrogen-fuelled vehicles, hydrogen filling stations and renewable hydrogen production. Serious effort is also being made to research and develop improved catalysts, as well as to commercialise new catalysis solutions.
The Platinum Valley project also coincides with work being done under the aegis of the Industrial Policy Action Plan to map opportunities for various minerals values chains, including PGMs, ferrous minerals and metals, titanium and pigments and polymers.
Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies has reported that the Mineral Value-Chains Strategy identifies the opportunities, as well as the regulatory requirements to realise those opportunities in the value chains.
He says that minerals beneficiation should be considered a key pillar of South Africa’s reindustrialisation effort and has revealed that the DTI is working with the DMR to integrate beneficiation-supporting regulatory instruments into the amended Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA).
The DMR is believed to be well advanced with its deliberations on possible amendments to the MPRDA and has also begun consultations with stakeholders inside and outside of government.